Sheriff applauds 'heroic' Buffalo shooting response, redirects blame

The Wright County Sheriff applauded the "heroic" efforts of law enforcement in its response to the Buffalo health clinic shooting earlier this week, saying the suspect was in custody and the building evacuated within 23 minutes of the initial call.

During a news conference Thursday, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said more than 70 law enforcement officers responded to the Allina Crossroads Clinic in Buffalo Tuesday after a shooting and bombing that killed one healthcare worker and wounded four others. 67-year-old Gregory Ulrich was charged Thursday for carrying out the attack.

Deringer said investigators from his office, the BCA, Buffalo Police, the ATF and the FBI continue to investigate the incident Thursday.

At the news conference, Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes said the actions of law enforcement Tuesday saved lives.

"People think maybe in rural Minnesota we don’t have the training and equipment necessary to handle something like this," said Sheriff Deringer. "I want everyone to know that within a very short amount of time we have 70 law enforcement officers on scene. Within 10 minutes we had confronted the suspect and took him into custody. Within 23 minutes of the first 911 call we had every victim removed, a secondary search for suspects taken care of and the building was evacuated."

Deringer went on to say that the first responders went into the building knowing there was an undetonated bomb.

"Yet they fearlessly ran into harm’s way, did what they needed to do, rendered aid to the victims at their own peril," he said.

The blame game

In the news conference Thursday, Sheriff Deringer urged the public not to assign blame to anyone this early on in the process. He said he saw social media posts doing just that in the wake of the shooting, but that the blame should fall squarely on the accused. 

While he did not explain exactly what he meant by the comment, he went on to say that his office had not been made aware of any threats Ulrich made within the last year that would have warranted action from his office.

Court documents show that a doctor at the Buffalo Allina clinic had a restraining order against Ulrich, which he was accused of violating in recent years. The County Attorney said Ulrich had DWI offenses in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but other than that had a "rather limited" criminal history.

Members of the media also asked how Ulrich could have obtained the firearm he used to carry out the attack. He said Minnesota's gun permitting laws are private and that he could not get into the specifics of the case. He said generally, however, that guns could sometimes be obtained due to "human error," saying sometimes gun permitting errors can "slip through the cracks." He also said guns can be obtained illegally.